Head to head, no proof major airlines are safer, says air safety expert

October 31, 1999

The safety records of air carriers flying the same nonstop routes are so similar that flyers cannot expect to improve their odds by choosing some carriers over others, says an MIT expert in air safety.

"While there are some big differences in airline safety records, these differences wither away when two airlines compete on the same route," says Arnold I. Barnett, George Eastman Professor of Management Science at MIT's Sloan School of Management. "Thus, it is not clear that travelers can benefit by favoring some airlines and shunning others.

"In particular, recent death-risk statistics do not support the oft-repeated assertions that established airlines in the U.S. are safer than newly-formed ones, that U.S. carriers are the safest in the world, or that First World carriers are systematically safer than Third-World airlines. Many of the differences in observed safety records could be ascribed either to differences in flying environments or to short-term fluctuations in luck."

The remarks are based on a paper, "Aviation Safety in Numbers," that is being presented at a convention of the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences (INFORMS®). Prof. Barnett delivers the Omega Rho Distinguished Lecture Plenary Address in the Philadelphia Marriott Hotel on Sunday, November 7 at 4:45 PM.

Professor Barnett has been described on NBC News as the nation's leading expert on aviation safety. He has worked for three airports and ten airlines, and headed an FAA research team formed at the request of the White House Commission on Aviation Safety and Security to investigate antiterrorist measures. Challenging Popular Perceptions

In his speech, Professor Barnett makes the following major points:
Philadelphia Convention

Members of the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences (INFORMS®) will hold a national convention place at the Philadelphia Marriott Hotel from Sunday, November 7 to Wednesday, November 10. The theme is "ORMS and the Quality of Life." The convention will include sessions on topics applied to numerous fields, including commuter transit, e-commerce, health care, information technology, energy, transportation, marketing, telecommunications, and sports. More than 1,600 papers are scheduled to be delivered. Additional information about the conference, including a full list of workshops, is at http://www.informs.org/Conf/Philadelphia99/ and http://www.informs.org/Press . The Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences (INFORMS®) is an international scientific society with 12,000 members, including Nobel Prize laureates, dedicated to applying scientific methods to help improve decision-making, management, and operations. Members of INFORMS work in business, government, and academia. They are represented in fields as diverse as airlines, health care, law enforcement, the military, the stock market, and telecommunications. The INFORMS website is at http://www.informs.org .

Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences

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